"Allison Crowe is the best thing to happen to 'Me And Bobby
McGee' since Janis Joplin changed Kristofferson’s lyrics."
“Me and Bobby McGee,” the song authored by Kris Kristofferson and
popularized by Janis Joplin (although Roger Miller’s version was the
first to rank as a hit), is not one of my favorites, but it is
useful as an example of Allison Crowe’s skills, in part because most
readers of this blog have, I suspect, heard it sung by at least a
couple of performers.
Also noteworthy, however, is the choice of this song itself. If
Allison had asked me to select 100 possible covers for her to play
in a concert, a real concert with a fancy piano set in the converted
church chapel of the Conservatory of Music in Victoria, British
Columbia, a concert that would become the album, Allison Crowe Live
At Wood Hall (with album art, shown on the right, radiating
dangerous levels of wholesomeness), “Me and Bobby McGee” would not
have been on my list. Nor would it have been on my “Possible Allison
Crowe Covers #101-200″ list, nor the “#201 to 300″ list.7
“Me and Bobby McGee” is a Kristofferson-Joplin-Miller kind of song.
Kenny Rogers, when he was still the “Kenny Rogers” in “Kenny Rogers
& The First Edition,” sang it, as did Gordon Lightfoot, Bill Haley &
His Comets, Sam The Sham, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. Waylon
sang it. So did The Grateful Dead and Dolly Parton. It is definitely
not an Allison Crowe kind of song.
Until she sings it.
Although Allison introduces over a dozen significant adaptations
to “Me and Bobby McGee,” I’ll point out only one nuance. Listen to
her inflected pronunciation of “Baton Rouge” in the first line,
“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train.” It makes this
version of the song her own from that point, giving the song a
richer, more complex flavor than those rendered in flat Midwestern
Yet, performed the same way by almost anyone else, the same tactic
would come off as too precious by half.
Me and Bobby McGee - Allison Crowe
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Allison Crowe: Live at Wood Hall
I'm behind on my current release reviews, but I must
take a break to write about an older album that I
love. Though there's really no way to convey through
mere words how much the music on Allison Crowe's Live
At Wood Hall moves me, or how I want other
people to listen to and adore it as much as I do.
Allison sings with such an intensity of emotion,
it's easy to see why she's often quoted as saying
"Why music? Why breathing?". She seems to
feel her music more than anyone simply listening to
it possibly could, and that kind of artistic passion
seems extremely rare these days. Her voice produces
the kind of chills that I only associate with a
select number of singers.
Even the packaging of Live At Wood Hall is
lovely. The interior flaps of the album cover and
each of the two discs are painted with a stained
glass window design, pulling apart and fitting
together as a perfect picture. The album was
recorded live during a two night performance in 2005
at Wood Hall, located at the Victoria Conservatory
Of Music in Canada. In between songs, you can hear
snippets of Allison's banter with the audience and
the enthusiastic response of the crowd.
Like many of Allison's songs, "There Is"
starts off the first disc of the album in a such a
heartfelt and sincere tone that it can only call to
mind classic Joni Mitchell. There are many moments
on the two discs where Allison's voice seems to defy
gravity, and the opening track is no exception.
"By Your Side" was one of the first
original Allison Crowe songs that I ever heard.
After her cover of "Hallelujah", this is
probably the song that really captured my attention.
On the surface it seems like a simple piano tune,
but toward the end her voice soars up into an
unfathomable note and holds it without faltering at
The cover of Ani Difranco's "Independence
Day" begins slowly in a hushed and pretty tone,
gradually growing into passionate anger and pounding
piano. The upbeat music of "Sea Of A Million
Faces" betrays the melancholy, longing, and
desperation of its lyrics. The lyrics of
"Bill" are quite funny, but the power of
the vocals diverts attention from the comedy.
"Fire", "What About You", and
"Whether I'm Wrong" are a few of many
songs that showcase the unique and vast range of
Allison's voice. Her pitch is particularly
noteworthy on "Whether I'm Wrong", falling
to its lowest depths and rising faultlessly to its
"In Love In Vain" is soft and jazzy, with
a purring lilt to the vocals. The cover of Counting
Crows' "A Murder Of One" is fervent and
dignified. The first disc is rounded out with
Allison's beautiful and echoing acapella performance
of the traditional "Believe Me If All".
The soft and soulful "Crayon And Ink"
opens the second disc. It's another favourite of her
original songs. "How Long" shows off the
throatier side of Allison's vocals.
"Running" is yet another strong vocal
performance, with lyrics that foreshadow
"Effortless" on This
Little Bird. Allison names Tori Amos as one
of her favourite artists and influences, and has
covered several of her songs. Here she does a
stripped down version of "Playboy Mommy",
from Tori's From The Choirgirl Hotel album.
The lovely piano intro of "Disease" melts
into a tune that is much darker in tone than most of
her work. The song features some of Allison's best
and most intense piano playing. Next is a live
performance of the title track from the Secrets
studio album. It's one of many songs that are
featured on both albums. Secrets is another
great album, though I must admit I prefer these live
The album ends with a trio of covers. "I
Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables
followed by a cover of John Lennon's
"Imagine", and Janis Joplin's "Me And
Bobby McGee" for the finale. All three songs
have been covered many times by both great and
mediocre artists. Here Allison Crowe once again
proves that there is no song too great for her
powerful voice to conquer. Her vocals on "I
Dreamed A Dream" are especially potent and
moving. As with her cover of "Hallelujah",
she seems to put every fiber of her being into the
song and it's an awe inspiring thing to hear.
You can download more mp3s from the album here,
and a ridiculously, wonderfully large amount of mp3s
from all of Allison's releases here.
But you're missing out if you don't buy this CD.
It's the kind of album that is best heard as a
whole, and one that you can really get lost in it if
you give it full attention. And Allison is extremely
supportive of music blogs and file sharing, so
please support her by purchasing her albums.
Live at Wood Hall: CD Review
Sophia Gurley, The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music (USA)
This is a two-disc recording of Allison Crowe
performing solo over two nights. The recording quality is good,
especially for a live concert. She mostly sings her own songs, but
does a few covers, including: Ani
DiFranco's "Independence Day"; "Bill" from
the musical, Showboat; "In Love in Vain" from Centennial
Summer (another Jerome Kern song); "Counting Crows' "A
Murder of One"; and on the first night ends with the
traditional Irish tune "Believe Me If All". The next night
she covers: Tori
Amos' "Playboy Mommy"; "I Dreamed A Dream"
(from Les Mis); John Lennon's "Imagine"; and Kris
Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" (which has as much
passion and power as Janis Joplin's version). The focus is always on
her vocals, which drive songs into consistently powerful, passionate
regions, even when she's singing quietly. Her own songwriting stands
up well against the covers. She certainly has every bit of ability,
talent, and passion she needs to have a long career
Live with Allison
Bruce von Stiers, BVS Reviews: Rock/Jazz (USA)
There is no easy way to describe the magnitude of the talent of
Allison Crowe. This pianist / vocalist has gathered a bunch of
awards and a ton of fans since her career began. Her music has been
compared to Sarah McLachlan, Jewel and several other top female
artists. But to put her in a box like that isn't quite fair. Allison
has her own unique style.
This young Canadian, she is in early 20's, has been playing to
audiences since her early teens. From coffeehouses to large concert
hall and even television specials, Allison has honed her talents so
once you hear her, you will become an instant fan.
Allison recorded a live album that has a lot of people talking
about it. This album was recorded at Wood Hall, the converted chapel
at the Conservatory of Music in Victoria , British Columbia. The
title of the album is Live at Wood Hall.
This is actually a double live album with two discs. You get
about two hours of beautiful vocals and tremendous piano music.
Allison wrote several of the songs that she performs.
Interspersed with the songs are bits with Allison talking to the
audience. She is witty and creates an instant connection with the
The first disc starts out with a song that Allison wrote called There
Is. It s a beautiful song that has strong vocals and wonderful
The next song is By Your Side. It is another song that
Allison wrote. The intro sounds somewhat like Journey's Faithfully.
Now there is vast difference between the ‘80's rock ballad and
Allison's song, but the piano music is similar in spots.
Bill is from the musical Showboat. Allison leads
into the song by talking about seeing a Broadway production of Phantom
of the Opera. She mentions something about an explosion on stage
and pondered whether there was a new phantom each performance. The
song allows Allison's penchant for show tunes to shine through.
Allison does a pretty good job of covering Ani DiFranco's Independence
Day. She also has some fun with Jerome Kern's jazzy tune, In
Love In Vain.
The traditional air, Believe Me If All, is beautifully
done as the last song on the first disc.
The second disc holds some originals songs along with some
delightfully unexpected covers.
The first song on the second disc is Crayon and Ink. It is
a slow ballad with heart rending vocals and haunting piano. Another
strong piece is Pray For Rain.
You are sure to like Allison's cover of the Tori Amos song, Playboy
Mommy. Her inflections are the same at Tori's but the voice is
distinctly different. This makes it as much Allison's song as Tori's.
Allison tackles another Broadway tune with I Dreamed A Dream.
The last two songs on the second disc are both covers. There is
John Lennon's Imagine. The other song is Me and Bobby
McGee. I haven't heard very many covers of Imagine.
Allison does a good job of capturing the essence of the Lennon's
music. As for Me and Bobby McGee, I have heard a lot of
people do this song. But I haven't heard anything like Allison's
version before. Allison puts a whole different spin on the song by
changing the inflection on several keys word in the verses. This
indeed makes a different type of cover and lets Allison assume
ownership of the song.
If you get the chance to listen to Allison Crowe, you will see
what people all over Canada, parts of the U.S. and fans around the
world are talking about. Allison is a world class pianist and
vocalist. You will have to go a long ways to find someone who is so
young and yet so talented.
Trevor Raggatt, Wears
The Trousers (UK)
October 18, 2005
Live At Wood Hall
Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe's personal mantra adorns
the cover of her latest album. That simple maxim is "Why
music?" "Why breathing?", so personal is her
connection with the music she writes and performs. This new record,
her fourth in total, documents a two-night stand at the Robin &
Winifred Wood Recital Hall in Victoria, British Columbia in March
2005, taking in twenty-three songs performed live in front of a
small but fortunate audience. Crowe was born and raised on Vancouver
Island in Nanaimo, a town with two prior claims to musical fame -
firstly, for having a deep heritage in brass band music stemming
from its coal mining history, and secondly, for being the birthplace
of jazz chanteuse, Diana Krall. Fortunately, Allison Crowe has
forsaken the former influence and, despite being a talented piano
player and singer and sharing stages with Krall, has taken a
different musical route and mines very separate sonic seams. Her
piano playing often perfectly complements the mood of each song,
whether she is tracing delicate arpeggios and melodies or delivering
bombastic chordal backing.
This double-disc set amply demonstrates Crowe's
profound skill both as a writer and as an interpreter of other
peoples' songs, the performances dripping with emotion as she wrings
meaning out of both the words and music. Her own compositions range
from simple, tender love songs (There Is, By Your Side) to
insightful social commentary (Whether I'm Wrong, Disease), and all
are delivered in a contemporary style. However, it is perhaps her
cover versions that are most revealing of Allison Crowe, and a
diverse selection they are too, ranging from her personal favourites
and influences (Tori Amos' Playboy Mommy, DiFranco's classic
Independence Day and A Murder Of One by Counting Crows) to showtunes
Bill and I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables, via the oft-covered
Imagine and Me & Bobby McGee. It's the Counting Crows cover that
really highlights her skills as an interpreter. Crowe strips the
song back to its skeleton and delivers a performance that completely
convinces. In her version, the refrain "All your life is such a
shame, shame, shame/All your love is just a dream, dream, dream/Open
up your eyes" is utterly divorced from the original's lightly
hopeful interpretation, becoming instead a cry of pure despair from
a heart that can see clearly the life which she is missing. It's a
heart-rending tour de force.
Live At Wood Hall easily holds the listener's
attention throughout its near 110-minute duration, but whilst it has
certain claims on the status of masterpiece, it is perhaps a flawed
one. Although Crowe's vocal ability and accuracy are beyond reproach
(her use of portamento to attain certain notes is exquisite and has
a hugely powerful effect that she wisely resists overusing), there
are moments where she fails to reach the odd high note. However,
this is completely forgivable in the live context of the album.
Larry Anschell's production and engineering serve to give a
transparent and intimate document of the concerts - this is no
ProTool'd and AutoTuned plastic pop opus but a real musician
creating a real performance. Where Crowe's tuning is a little
errant, it is not because of a lack of ability, but rather because
raw emotion seems to overwhelm the technical aspects of the
delivery. Another nice technical touch is that all of the applause
and intros are recorded as separate tracks, thereby allowing the
listener to edit them out with some nifty programming if they so
The greatest difficulty with Crowe's singing is
perhaps most obvious on the Jerome Kern/PG Wodehouse showtune, Bill.
While hers is a magnificent interpretation, bringing the song slap
bang into the 21st Century, it also over-emphasises her
extraordinary vibrato, a technique that is usually used subtly to
bring additional depth to a performance. However, when Crowe
switches that internal button, it is anything but subtle. Very
rapid, deep and with a "square-wave" quality, she turns it
on and off like a tremolo effect pedal rather than fading it into
sustained passages. On initial listens, this can be rather
distracting - too often I was listening to the vibrato rather than
the music - but subsequent auditions lessen the shock of the new. A
flaw, true, but not a fatal one!
Overall, Live At Wood Hall is a worthy document
of a pair of extraordinary performances. More than that though, it's
an album that suggests that this young woman from an obscure mining
town in Canada is only at the beginning of a long and successful
Canada - Full Moon 109 - 08/19/05
Live at Wood Hall
Allison Crowe's debut Secrets was an excellent record and, this
live cd sees the singer alone at the piano. The material is a mix of
originals and covers. Opener "This Is" sees her display
vocal firepower to a neat backing. Ani DiFranco's "Independence
gets a lovely reading. "Sea of a Million Faces" from the
debut gets a
jaunty musical reading. Crowe's singing of loneliness suits the
Two songs by Jerome Kern, "Bill" and "In Love in
Vain" get inspired
versions before disc 1 is over. What both discs prove is the sheer
of Crowe's singing. She can belt with the best of them, but she also
knows when to hold back. Disc 2's version of "Imagine"
could easily have
been over-sung but she lets the words resonate instead. Her take on
Amos' "Playboy Mommy" is another gem. "I Dreamed a
Dream" from Les
Miserables is heart-rending.
This record is as great as live discs can get and I think Crowe
great to see for real.
This time around, the ever prolific Allison
Crowe treats fans to a double-disc live album recorded in March 2005
at Victoria, British Columbia's Conservatory of Music. Live at Wood
Hall is a voyage through Crowe's concert repertoire and offers up
plenty of original tunes as well as a wide range of cover songs in a
variety of styles. Armed only with her piano and stellar voice,
Allison Crowe delivers a performance of superb quality that belies
her young age.
The overall focus of Allison Crowe's music is her voice and lyrics -
and what a voice it is! Crowe has a strong and chillingly beautiful
but decidedly feminine set of pipes, and it seems she can sing just
about anything. There are plenty of ballads, including the
anthem-like "There Is" and "Pray for Rain," as
well a jazz ("In Love in Vain") and Broadway ("Bill,
I Dreamed a Dream"). Although much of Allison's writing focuses
on passion, hope, and love, some of Allison's originals, like
"Whether I 'm Wrong" and "Disease" are infused
with social commentary.
The cover songs on Live at Wood Hall are all well chosen to
highlight Crowe's voice, and yet she still manages to give each a
bit of personal spin. Allison gives Ani DiFranco's
"Independence Day" a sense of urgency not found in the
original, while her version of the Counting Crows' "A Murder of
One" becomes more haunting and sincere. Her take on Joplin's
"Me and Bobby McGee" gets a refreshing spin on the piano,
while Tori Amos' "Playboy Mommy" sounds completely at home
with Allison's style. Still, perhaps the most breathtaking moment is
the a capella rendition of the Irish traditional "Believe Me if
All" that perfectly caps off the first disc.
With two full discs of material, there's a lot to digest on Live at
Wood Hall, but for a concert recording, the album couldn't be
better. The mix of originals and cover songs is well balanced, and
the recording quality is so magnificent you could hear a pin drop.
Such clarity puts all the focus on Allison's voice and piano playing
without audience or other noise distractions. For the breadth of
material offered and for the unique opportunity to hear Allison
Crowe play live (since she doesn't have any US dates coming up that
I'm aware of), Live at Wood Hall is a great bet for anyone who loves
simply beautiful vocals and piano-based music.
If you've been a reader for this
site for a while, you know that I've
reviewed Allison's music many times. She is on the first artists
showcased here and as it turns out, in some instances I've been the
first reviewer to review a certain CD or song. So she's definitely a
Collected Sounds favorite. I'm not really sure that I can say
new that I haven't already said about Allison. She's amazing.
This recording gives us a chance to see what Allison is like in
an audience, how she interacts with them, and how she still does not
a note. That voice is just as crystal clear and spot on as it is on
One of my favorites moments is her cover of Ani DiFranco's "Independence
Day". She actually does quite a few covers here. Many songs
Kern, a Counting Crows tune, John Lennon's "Imagine"
and something for
you bluesy rock folks: a cover of Janis Joplin's "Me and
and her voice is perfect for it. Funny, I can't stand Joplin (I
you want to take away my Female Musician Evangelist card), but I
when Allison is doing it, even though she sounds very much like
But most of the other songs are written by Allison and they're just
good, if not better than the covers. My favorites are: There Is,
a Million Faces, Whether I'm Wrong, Crayon & Ink
(which was also on a
This is a great way to get acquainted with the lovely Allison Crowe
you are not already. If you are, well, then you will have to have
to round out your collection.
Revieuw Live Album
Frank Van Engelen - Bluesiana - Radio Purmerend
July 12 2005
What a voice this lady
has, sometimes she sounds like Kate Bush, some Melanie, and Eva
Cassidy, but most of all herself, in thrilling originals, and some
very well done covers. Accompanied with the piano she sets a
haunting, relaxing, thrilling performance where you could hear a pin
drop. I believe the stories she tells are all very interesting and
original. The cover songs she does, are not the easiest ones I have
heard, and she gives it a special personal blend. Imagine, she gives
a very beautiful touch, the Counting Crows song is brilliant, and
the Janis Joplin Me and Bobby McGee is surprisingly with at the end
a screaming bluesey voice. I think this treasure could easily do
some blues songs too, maybe someday, she coud sing in my show some
bluesey stuff. I was very delighted by her music, and if you are
into original compositions, with a great voice, that only can be
this woman's treasure, this album will bring you happiness and joy
everywhere you go. A must have for people who like Norah Jones, Kate
Bush, Melanie and Eva (sometimes).
Thanx so much my lady.
Tom Harrison, The Province (Canada)
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
ALLISON CROWE: Live at Wood Hall (Rubenesque)
A double CD of a singer at her piano is a lot to listen to without
the immediacy of actually being at the concert. So, allowing for
that absence of drama, we are left with a generous helping of
original songs and a few interpretations that show Crowe's range -
from showtunes to Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco. Crowe is still
developing as a writer - she hasn't found her signature yet - but
her singing is bold and elastic and ultimately affecting. As for the
influence of Amos and DiFranco, you can hear through her music how
Crowe relates to these women.
Allison Crowe Album: Live At Wood Hall Year: 2005 Label: Rubenesque Records LTD
Review: This is a double cd of
Allisons Live at Wood Hall Victoria Conservatory Of Music (Victoria
B.B. Canada) show on the nights of March 24 and 25 2005. It features
14 of Allison's originals, I especially like the song Disease with
its beautiful dreamy piano line at the very beginning, but also By
Your Side, Pray For Rain, Immersed and Whether I'm Wrong. Well, it's
all good. Alley covers some songs too, for instance Tori Amos'
Playboy Mommy, Ani DiFranco's Independence Day and John Lennon's
Imagine. She has an excellent voice and is one of the most promising
and overlooked artists out there. She also did a great cover of
Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, not featured on this cd. Allison
definitely deserves some more attention. Check
her out and enjoy!
Highlights: Disease, By Your Side,
Pray For Rain, Immersed
Comparison: Reviewers say Alley is
similar to Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, but well, I don't
know...best just buy the cd, you won't regret it, seriously
(c) 2005, stokedfish
Woah!, August 21, 2005
Reviewer: Allan Eòghan
"Gaelbàrd" - ***** (five stars)
I'm not sure what I was expecting since I'd just heard Allison's
And in the Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Pop area? I didn't think that it
fly, since I'm not so much a fan of the first three genres. But what
voice! Sea of a Million Faces, Secrets, and a Murder of One really
caught my attention, musically and with Allison's soulful, powerful
soprano/mezzo-soprano. How she plays it; powerful and brassy one
soft and mellow the next. She really has a lot of soul in her voice!
the lyrics have much meaning to them, and she's actually written
these songs? That amazes me! And I like the way that she interacts
the audience in between songs; she sounds very humble (but that's
my perception), which I like.
She looks to have more talent than certain "singers" (Britney
I can't wait to see which direction that Allison takes!
Playboy Mommy: Absolutely
Wonderful, August 1, 2005
Reviewer: R. Meyer - ***** (five stars)
I am a huge Tori Amos fan, so I was interested in hearing this
of it. I am so impressed. Allison Crowe's voice is utterly beautiful
she does not sing just so that her voice sounds beautiful. She lets
power and pain drip from it, as is evident in her rendition of
"Hallelujah" and even her Christmas carols.
haunting and beautiful, July 6, 2005
Reviewer: Sarah Mulchand
(New York, NY) - ***** (five stars)
Allison Crowe has the voice, the soul, and the ability to express
herself in a manner that gives one chills. This live album of Ms.
Crowe's perfomance Victoria BC's Conservatory of Music, both a
combination of her original songs and a ecelectic mix of covers only
left me eager for more. The album is described as "a range from
roots & blues through folk, pop/rock, jazz and Broadway"
which is entirely accurate. There are songs on this album that cover
every mood, every musical interest. While I love the entire
collection, I would have to say that my favorites are "Sea of a
Million Faces", "Secrets", "I Dreamed a
Dream" (from Les Miz..amazing!), "Whether I'm Wrong",
"Imagine" and the classic "Me and Bobby McGee".
If you could only buy two
new albums of this year, it would be this and Ben Lee's "Awake
is the New Sleep".